Friday, November 11, 2005

Go to Bérubé's blog right now

UPDATE: The post title and the first two paragraphs of this post are no longer relevant. You missed it. Oh well.

That's an order. This is especially important for those of you who read your blogs via Bloglines. Since Bloglines doesn't pick up template graphics, you're missing something today. Go now.

Hee hee!!! (And again, for those of you who don't know what the hell I'm talking about and don't get the joke once there, don't worry, you're not missing much.)

Speaking of Michael Bérubé, it was so cool to meet him last night, though I was disappointed there was no camouflage boom box. His talk was excellent and difficult-in-a-good-way, like a combination of his political posts on his blog and his "Theory Tuesday" series. I just barely knew the surface of the subjects and thinkers he covered to follow the talk (but not much more than follow), so there's absolutely no way I could even do adequate justice to a summary. I'll let him speak for himself on his blog. It was so complex and densely packed that if you failed to listen carefully every moment you'd be lost. (I should say here that he did give nice "signposts" to the listener to let you know where he'd been, where he was going, and how all of this was going to come together. I appreciated that. All public speakers should follow suit, even in short talks.)

Anyway, apparently I had to concentrate so hard that I was frowning all through the talk. I also had my arms crossed because I just sit that way. Why am I aware of this? Because Michael mentioned it and imitated it afterwards. I think it may have unnerved him. I'm sorry Michael! Really, it just means I'm actively engaged and thinking. So, for all of you academics whom I know IRL or whom I may get to know one of these days: if I come to one of your talks and frown all the way through it, that's a *good* sign. And if my arms are crossed, that has nothing to do with you and doesn't mean anything. Now you know.

Also, if I come to one of your talks, I promise not to be 15 minutes late and walk in just as the introductions are finished and you're starting to talk. Doh! In planning my roadtrip to see the talk, I forgot to allow time for negotiating the parking garage and getting from my car to the talk. And there was actually traffic in my town at 3pm. Weird. That *never* happens.

So what's the man like IRL? Well, he's tall. Not freakishly so, just a good tall. His voice is lower than I thought it would be. And, my god, the man talks so fast! I mean reallyfastlikethissoevenifyou'retalkingaboutsomethingnotparticularlysubstantial
likewhetherthebartendermixedupyourchardonnaywithhispinotgrigioit'shardotkeepup. Whew! New Yorkers, man. I've lost my touch. I've spent too many years in the west and midwest. And, of course, he's thinking even faster than he's talking so you move from one topic to another at lightening speed. (Funny comparison: talking to Michael actually reminds me of talking to a certain famously motormouthed film director friend of mine. Both men talk at a rapid-fire pace about subjects I know something about and am interested in, but don't share their depth of knowledge, so I'm content just to listen and go along for the ride.) However, remind me next time I meet up with him or someone like him to 1) eat something before I go so my blood-sugar is at a normal level and my brain is working, and 2) not have two glasses of wine on said empty stomach. Dr. Virago was *not* at her best and brightest!

Most of the 45 minutes we chatted we talked about places and people we knew in common. We went to the same undergraduate college, you see, and playing six-degrees is pretty easy when you add that to the fact that we weren't that far apart in eras there, we're both academics, and there's a high percentage of graduates from our undergrad college who go on to academia. It's pretty disgustingly weird how small all of our worlds are when you think about it. For example, one of Boyfriend's good friends from grad school was one of Michael's colleagues at Illinois (and Boyfriend's not even in English - he just hangs out with us) and she (Boyfriend's friend) also went to the same undergrad college as Michael and I. In fact, she and I were the same year. Sickening, really. I need to get out more. (The Boyfriend would probably agree. I think he's sick of me saying, "Ooh, that person went to Alma Mater," about every other person in the news or in entertainment or the arts or academia.)

Other things worth remarking upon:

  • The man's Middle English is just gorgeous. And what other po-mo Americanists do you know who bring up the word "wlonk" in conversation? Excellent.
  • The other MLA big-wigs should listen to him next time he suggests Las Vegas as the site for the annual convention. It's super union-friendly, it's cheap, it's set up for conferences, the hotels are all close together, and there are lots of cheap airlines that fly there from just about everywhere. Listen to him, MLA! Vegas, baby! I don't even like Vegas and I think that's a great idea. Besides, it's warm in winter.
  • And who knew that there was an elegant, undergrad-free bar in AA within steps from campus! Excellent discovery!
Like I said, most of what we talked about was "do you know so-and-so...and how's so-and-so doing?" kinda stuff. And SiteMeter and Technorati searches. Heh heh. Oh, and a question came up that we never really answered: why is it that most of the anonymous academic bloggers are women? Or is that just our misperception?

And then, on the way home, a little worried about those two glasses of wine, I got a latte at *$$ and blasted At the Drive In and sang along to keep me alert. But the combination of the high-intensity music with the high-intensity caffeine, added to the residue of the high-insensity "speed blogger meet-up" meant that I was so wound up I nearly forgot that I was almost out of gas until I was on a lonesome highway still only 3/4 of the way home. Lucky for me I was near an exit and a gen-u-wine truck stop, the kind with a laundromat in it. I'd never been in one of those before. But no one seemed to notice me, and they had regular fuel as well as diesel. It turned out I had a gallon of gas left and only 16 miles more to go, so I would've made it, but then I would've never learned that there are truck stops with laudromats. So it's all good.


Heo said...

I am most impressed by Berube's ability to bring Middle English into conversation. Yay! I've been a bit frustrated by Americanists in my program apparently thinking that English literature began with Mary Rowlandson. Also, they tend to point out the inherent violence in all the best jokes, which I find irritating.

Dr. Virago said...

Oh, Berube is all about the violence! ;) Uh-oh, now he's gonna sue me for libel. Oh wait, that's someone else.

Seriously, yes, the world needs more Americanists and theoryheads like him! Woo-hoo!

Anonymous said...

LOL at the template! That's hysterical!

And it sounds like a good time - I'm very jealous about the meet-up. (Maybe I can convince the English people to invite him to give a talk here...although I suspect we can't afford him...oh well.) Just out of curiosity, how did the meet up happen? Did you contact him and suggest it?

Ancrene Wiseass said...

The template was most excellent. Whahahaha.

Hooray for Americanists who like Middle English and say "wlonk." Now I heart him even more.

MLA in Vegas is a brilliant idea. Absolutely brilliant. I'd go to that convention regardless of whether I were giving a talk, just to see who'd get married in a midnight ceremony by an Elvis impersonator. Now THAT's a conference. That might even trump the K'zoo dance.

As to "why are most of the anonymous academic bloggers women" question, well, I'd guess it's because the deck is already stacked against us as it is, and we're not about to give the Academic Gatekeepers another reason to boot us out.

Dr. Virago said...

New Kid said: Just out of curiosity, how did the meet up happen? Did you contact him and suggest it?

Well, actually, New Kid, I'm cyberstalking him. Oh wait, no, that's not me. (God, why I am so obsessed with the jokes about PD?) Seriously, yes, I heard he was speaking in driving distance, emailed to say I'd come and say hi afterwards, and since there was time to kill between his talk and his dinner plans, we made plans to get a drink and kill that time dead.

Wiseass: LOL re: the Elvis wedding. I hadn't thought of that! OK, that's it. MLA *must* be in LV sooner rather than later.

So, btw, the Boyfriend thinks this post was way too fangirl-like and gushing. But dammit, I *am* a fangirl. I heart Michael Berube. It *is* just like when I met the Clash, only not as loud.

theactivesoul said...

You know, I was fortunate enough to register for a Modern American Literature class my senior year at Illinois in the spring of '96, and I randomly wound up in Berube's class. Every Single Class was a workout in listening skills, and not just for the reasons you list in your post. When he wasn't talking about slipping signifiers in White Noise, he was talking about various levels of drumming performances and how he happened to rate the previous night. Yup. Dude's pretty cool.

Dr. Virago said...

Yes, ActiveSoul, exactly! And thanks for letting me know it wasn't just my low blood sugar and moderate tipsiness that made it seem hard to keep up and that it's not just me.

Anonymous said...

First of all, I do not talk fast. I don’t know how that rumor gets around. And second of all, Dr. V. was not at all fangirly when we met -- she was, as she says, frowning all through the talk, and plenty smart and witty afterwards. Don’t believe a word about this “blood sugar” nonsense. Also, I do not talk fast. Finally, our conversation was not all about who knows who from the alma maters. Sure, there was plenty of that, and it always makes me think of the parallels between academe and the military (“you trained at Fort Bragg? no kidding! who was your commanding officer? did you hear he got transferred to Andrews?”), but amid the small talk, Dr. V. and I did, actually, say some substantive things. We agreed that there are oft-unremarked similarities between medieval and modernist literature (she was like “Del Kolve is teh cool” and I was like “H. R. Jauss rox” and she was like “I am so not Robertsonian about this” and I was like “dewd! I heart Dinshaw”); we compared teaching notes and talked about blogging ethics and the aesthetics of aviator glasses; and we came to the conclusion that developing nations’ international debt could be restructured simply by pegging debenture-escrow ratios to each nation’s balance of trade as a percentage of GDP. That’s a lot of ground to cover in forty minutes, sure, but it helps that Dr. V. talks really, really fast.

Glad to hear you got back safely and discovered a good truck stop/ laundromat along the way. But a full gallon left? Pah. It doesn’t count as a close call unless you’re shifting into neutral whenever you hit a downslope.

Michael Bérubé

Dr. Virago said...

Dewwwwwd! Bérubé uses quotative "be like"! Awwwwwwesome! (Yup, I just got linguistic on yer ass.)

But seriously, you made my cereal milk come out my nose. I believe it's a misdemeanor of some sort to be funny before 9am.

And you know what? Aviator glasses are coming back. The character "Greg" on CSI (the original) was wearing blue tinted ones on Thursday night's episode.

All I can say is: ew.

And oh yeah -- thanks for coming by, Michael. You *rock* dewd!